I will join Majority Leader Sen. Mike Gronstal on Iowa Press this week. You can tune in to IPTV at 7:30pm Friday or 12:00pm Sunday. You can also watch it online here http://www.iptv.org/iowapress/default.cfm
On the final day of session, each of the three leaders gives a speech to the House. Below is the text of my closing remarks.
I will begin by saying thank you to the members of the Eighty-Fourth General Assembly. Thank you for your commitment and service to the people of Iowa. Special thanks to the Eighteen of you choosing to retire. You will be missed not only by your friends and colleagues here at the Capitol, but moreover by the Iowans in the districts you’ve served over the years.
I want to specifically recognize the two members retiring from the House Republican Leadership team; Speaker Pro-Tem Jeff Kaufmann and Assistant Leader Steve Lukan. I personally want to thank each of you for your friendship and your service to our caucus. Your leadership will be missed. To the other members of the leadership team: Erik, Renee, Dave and Matt – I truly appreciate your input and advice. And last but not least, the Majority Leader – Linda Upmeyer. House Republicans appreciate everything you do. Your dedication and insight are invaluable and have not only made our caucus more determined, but made the Iowa House stronger.
I’d also like to recognize Leader McCarthy. I know I have said this before, but you truly have a difficult job as Minority Leader. During the past two years you have done a commendable job working in a bipartisan manner when you could and trying to keep your opposition civil when you could not, something Iowans deserve and expect.
Once again, thank you to the leadership staff: Josie, Angie, Terri, Tony and Matt. And, in my opinion, the best caucus staff in the building – the House Republican Caucus staff: Jeff, Lew, Lon, Brad, Jason, Kristi, Jill, Amanda, Louis and Dustin. Thank you for your hard work and the timely and reliable information you provide year in and year out.
Chief Clerk Smithson, thank you to you and your staff. The work you all do right here in front me and behind the scenes helps make this chamber operate efficiently.
A special thanks to LSA for all of your hard work. Especially the time and effort put in by all these past few weeks.
I also want to recognize and thank the gentleman to my right, the Speaker’s page Tom Biedenfeld. Tom you have taken good care of me throughout the year. I appreciate your dedication and have enjoyed our baseball conversations between votes and while the House is at ease.
And finally, a special thank you to Governor Terry Branstad and Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds and their team for their resolve and unwavering leadership during these last two years.
The first day that the Eighty-Fourth General Assembly convened, I outlined to Iowans a set of goals this body would seek to achieve and principals we would follow during the course of conducting legislative business. Since that day, this body has remained focused on the issues important to Iowans and the business the people sent us here to do.
We have worked hard at putting Iowans back to work and reducing the size, scope and cost of state government.
The first action we took to put Iowans back to work was to provide Iowa’s business climate with some much needed certainty and stability. For too long, Iowa employers were reluctant to invest in their operations, preventing them from hiring and expanding. They were reluctant because they constantly threatened with job-killing legislation like the repeal of our Right to Work law and Open Scope Bargaining. House Republicans put those ideas in the rear-view mirror and moved forward.
Employers were reluctant to invest in Iowa’s workforce and economy because Iowa’s budget was unstable. State government was spending more than it took in and the threat of massive tax increases to correct the problem was real and imminent.
I can report to you today we have removed those fears and Iowa’s economy is rebounding and is headed in the right direction.
When Republicans took the majority in the House, more than 110,000 Iowans were unemployed. According to Iowa Workforce Development’s latest report, 87,000 Iowans are looking for work. That number, while still too high and worrisome, is a tangible sign of progress. It is also a reminder that we can and need to continue to do better.
In the last few days, we have had the opportunity to review the changes in the state budget over the last two sessions. Frankly, it really is quite remarkable. Normally a change in law is needed to alter the budget process. But this chamber has fundamentally changed the way state government budgets because we believed it was the right thing to do. In the past, legislators, including Republicans, underfunded previous commitments, spent more than the state was taking in and used one-time money for ongoing expenses. I’m proud to say those practices have ended.
When House Republicans took charge of the state budget in January 2011, Governor Culver had signed the four largest budgets in the state history, forced a $500 million property tax increase, borrowed over $800 million, and left a $900 million spending gap for Governor Branstad and the new legislature.
House Republicans have led the way towards a healthy and accountable state budget that has measurable results for the hardworking taxpayers of Iowa. We have turned a $900 million spending shortfall into $624 million in reserves, $300 million in ending balance and $90 million in the House Republican created Taxpayer Trust Fund. That $390 million should be returned to the taxpayers through broad-based tax relief and will be this body’s first order of business next year.
In Fiscal Year 2011 the state was spending 118% of total available general fund revenue. In Fiscal Year 2012, we reduced that to 93% of total available general fund revenue and in Fiscal Year 2013 it will be 95%.
In terms of on-going revenue, which as you might have heard is a far more important measurement for House Republicans, the state will be spending just 99% in Fiscal Year 2012 and 2013. In the future, we must remain committed to spending less than the state collects from the taxpayers.
Despite skepticism, we have, at a minimum, reduced the cost of state government by $360 million a combination of efficiencies and reprioritization.
Additionally, this General Assembly backfilled the intentional act of underfunding Iowa’s K through 12 education system to ensure property taxpayers were not saddled with that burden; and we honored our commitments to parents and students by funding previous commitments.
House Republicans see it as our duty to cut out waste in government spending so our state can be more efficient and effective. A better run state government means Iowans get to keep more of their own money. Over the last two years House Republicans have persistently tackled tax relief. We sent a 20% income tax reduction to the Senate. We sent four separate and different property tax relief bills across the Rotunda; and like most bills in this chamber all four proposals received bi-partisan support. Regrettably, we could not find common ground with the Senate on these ideas.
All Iowans deserve to see tax relief. It helps Iowa’s economy and puts people back to work. House Republicans will not be deterred or be distracted from this goal. We will be back next year continuing our fight for the hardworking taxpayers of Iowa.
When each of you walk out of here and return home you can say with pride that the House restored commonsense budgeting principles to state government while funding Iowans’ priorities including: education, public safety, healthcare and infrastructure.
In closing, I wish to thank my wife Cathy and each of our four children for their never ending support. Thank you to each of you for giving me the opportunity to serve as your Speaker for the last two years. It is an honor and privilege that I do not take lightly.
During session, each day I wake up thinking about how to move Iowa forward with the hard working taxpayers in mind. We have made progress for the taxpayers but our work is not done. We must continue to build upon the success of the last two years. Iowans deserve it. Thank you and God bless the great State of Iowa.